By Molly Igoe and Abby Wargo
News Editor and Student Life Editor
Mary Wood didn’t want a funeral; she wanted a party.
Her granddaughter Mariah Wood, who was also involved in planning the celebration of Mary Wood’s life on Saturday, Nov. 4, said, “She wanted us to have wine. Lots and lots of wine. And to gather, talk, and reminisce… it’s extremely in character for her to have a party instead of a funeral.”
True to her wishes, a party honoring her was held at the Rose O’Neill Literary House with a selection of wine. Mary Wood, who passed away on Oct. 18, was an Eastern Shore resident for most of her life; she lived on Indiantown Farm near Centreville until 1996, when she moved to Chestertown.
She graduated in 1968 from Washington College and was a former member of the Board of Visitors and Governors. The Mary Wood Fellowship was created to award a female-identifying writer in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction who has published at least one book.
Mary Wood has published literary works ranging from children’s books, to short story collections, to numerous plays. According to a Kent County News obituary, her works include the children’s book “Magic Mystery Swan” (1974), which received the Easton Academy of Arts prize; the short novel “Eclipse,” which won University of Indiana’s Elizabeth Enright Memorial Award; two volumes of poetry; a book of essays; a book of short stories; and a set of four books about her grandmothers and her husband’s grandmothers called “Granny,” “An Impression for Good,” and “My Darling Alice.”
Aside from writing, Mary Wood had many other interests, and was known as compassionate and involved in her community.
She helped start the Spaniard’s Neck Foundation for affordable housing in Queen Anne’s County; drove a bookmobile in Talbot County; founded the Kent Association for Riding Therapy; served on the Maryland Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; and in 2015, she became a founding member of Kent-Queen Anne’s Affiliate of the Maryland Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, according to the obituary.
Mary Wood worked closely with the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience on the StoryQuest Oral History Project. She was the subject of two interviews conducted about her experience during WWII.
Junior Cherie Ciaudella interviewed Wood for the StoryQuest WWII project twice.
“She had a lot of really wonderful stories to tell about how she remembered WWII and her personal experiences on the homefront…she was really engaging, a wonderful storyteller… every person in StoryQuest knows her name, even if they didn’t interview her,” she said.
Saiorse, sophomore, was the last student to interview Mary Wood for the WWII project.
She said, “Our connecting point was the Literary House,” and recalled talking to Mary Wood about growing up in India.
For all of Mary Wood’s interviews for the project, visit storyquestproject.com/mary-wood/.
Family members at the party spoke fondly about Mary Wood and the legacy she had left behind.
Her son, Robin Wood, said his favorite memory of his mother was the time he got to spend with her in the last few days, weeks, and months of her life.
“Even if she was making lunch, if I came in and said, ‘Let’s go to lunch,’ she would be ready to rock and roll. That was her attitude on life… Even though she’s not living anymore, she is living through her work,” he said.
Her granddaughter Mariah Wood called her “lively, opinionated, thoughtful, creative, kind, and a little bit bossy.” She said her grandmother is her role model, as she is going to college later in life after having children, just like Mary Wood.
Her grandson, Adams Wood, said she wasn’t a typical doting grandmother.
“She’s a great example of someone trying to do good and follow your passion,” he said.